We analyzed the characteristics of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) who reported unmet oral health needs since testing positive and compared those characteristics with people reporting no unmet health needs. We also identified barriers to accessing oral health care for PLWHA.
We collected data from 2,469 HIV-positive patients who had not received oral health care in the previous 12 months and who had accessed care at Health Resources and Service Administration-funded Special Projects of National Significance Innovations in Oral Health Care Initiative demonstration sites. The outcome of interest was prior unmet oral health needs. We explore barriers to receiving oral health care, including cost, access, logistics, and personal factors. Bivariate tests of significance and generalized estimating equations were used in analyses.
Nearly half of the study participants reported unmet dental care needs since their HIV diagnosis. People reporting unmet needs were more likely to be non-Hispanic white, U.S.-born, and HIV-positive for more than one year, and to have ever used crack cocaine or crystal methamphetamine. The top three reported barriers to oral care were cost, access to dental care, and fear of dental care. Additional reported barriers were indifference to dental care and logistical issues.
Innovative strategies are needed to increase access to and retention in oral health care for PLWHA. Key areas for action include developing strategies to reduce costs, increase access, and reduce personal barriers to receiving dental care, particularly considering the impact of poor oral health in this population.